Big things – like planets – have a lot of momentum (which is mass times velocity). They tend to go in one direction. It’s difficult for them to change direction.
There are lots of advantages to being big. There are economies of scale. And you can push your way past small things, brush them aside, maybe just eat them up. And the Earth is always eating up dust and small rocks as it goes round the Sun. And as it does that, it gets bigger. And in general big things always tend to get bigger.
But there are also disadvantages to being big. The Titanic was a big ship, and it had a lot of momentum as it steamed across the Atlantic. And that meant that when an iceberg loomed out of the darkness in front of it, it couldn’t slow down or change course in time to avoid hitting it. If it had been a little sailing dinghy, it would have been able to turn on a dime in seconds, and avoid the collision. But it wasn’t, and so it just went barreling on into the iceberg.
It’s the same with institutions like companies or large corporations or universities or governments. They also have momentum of a sort. They’re all going in some direction. They find it difficult to change course and do something else.
And in these large organisations, everyone tends to think the same way, maybe even dress the same way. There’s an institutional momentum to them. They’re very, very good at doing one thing, and they’re usually always getting better and better at doing it. But that’s pretty much the only thing they can do. So Kelloggs started out making cornflakes, and 100 years later it’s still making cornflakes. And it’s probably a lot better at making cornflakes now than it was back then.
The EU is a big thing that’s incorporated a lot of smaller things called nation states. And it’s got it’s own momentum. And Big Pharma is another big thing. And so is Big Tobacco.
And people think that big things only ever get bigger. And for the most part they do. The EU now extends across the whole of Europe, and is pushing to incorporate Ukraine. There’s even talk of a New World Order, which will be a global government.
But if things only ever get bigger, we’d still be living in the age of the dinosaurs, and there’d be great big animals like brontosauruses and diplodocuses wandering around, and being hunted by great big tyrannosauruses. But they’ve all gone. Every single one. Modern animals are pretty small by comparison. They’re small and nimble. So why did that happen?
The answer, most probably, is that conditions changed, and the big animals couldn’t change quickly enough, maybe because they reproduced too slowly. Maybe it got cold or something. Small, fast reproducing animals could rapidly produce variants with a bit more hair or fur or feathers to keep themselves warm. Big animals couldn’t. The bigness that had been such an advantage in earlier times in muscling their way past small animals had turned into a disadvantage: they were too slow, too unresponsive.
And I’m beginning to think that all the big institutions we now have – The EU. The World This and the World That. Big Something and Big Something Else – are all about to be swept away, just like the titanic dinosaurs. And they’ll be replaced by small, nimble, fast-responding institutions.
When the Roman Empire – which was a very big organisation – collapsed, probably because it had become too slow and unresponsive to new threats, it disintegrated into lots and lots of little statelets, much like the Titanic turned into lots and lots of little lifeboats.
And I think that’s probably what’s going to happen to the EU. It’s going to dissolve into lots of little statelets. It probably won’t even dissolve back into its original nation states. Because the nation states are also suffering from the same giantism as the EU. It’s quite likely that the UK will divide into England and Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland. It may even divide into its constituent counties, and I won’t live in England: I’ll live in Herefordshire. And France will break up into Britanny and Normandy and Champagne and Auvergne and all the rest. So also Germany and Italy and Spain. It’ll be just like after the fall of the Roman Empire.
And the same will happen with all the other big institutions. Big Pharma. Big Tobacco. IBM. Microsoft. Apple. Kelloggs. They’ll all disintegrate into little companies.
And these new organisations will have a much more human scale. They’ll be run by ordinary, friendly, real people, rather than faceless bureaucrats. And they’ll be highly responsive, unlike the unresponsive, indifferent large institutions.
The same will happen with political parties. There’ll be no more Labour party and Conservative party and Liberal Democratic party. There will be hundreds, maybe thousands, of little parties. And they’ll all be highly responsive to their voters, because they have so few of them that that even losing one or two will be one or two too many.
And in that world smokers who are now completely ignored and sidelined and bulldozed will suddenly find that they get listened to. And candidates for the Herefordshire Farmers Party and the Hereford Christians Party will start promising that pubs can allow smoking again once they’ve been elected.
We’re on the brink of the mass extinction of bigness. Perhaps we’re already starting to see it happening, as Scotland tries to break away from England, Catalonia from Spain, northern Italy from the south. And we’ll soon be seeing the disintegration of Big Pharma and Big Tobacco and Big Everything.
The UN is another big institution. Soon it’ll find that there are no more nations, and they’re all disunited. Same for the WHO, and the BMA, and the RCP, and of course Tobacco Control. And the NHS. And Greenpeace.
It’ll be a chain reaction, just like the sinking of the Titanic, as the water rose over one bulkhead after another, and people started heading for the boats. It’ll probably start at the top, in the biggest institutions, and spread from there to smaller institutions. The EU will probably disintegrate into a northern core, with a southern and eastern periphery. The cracks are already there, and they’re always widening.